Playing a joker and a long journey home

Weeks five and six of Jantastic (the first two in the month of February) and I am still spot on target, although I admit, one of the two available jokers has been played…

Jantastic weeks 5 and 6Week 1:  The aim was for five runs and a long run of 27 miles.
Monday – Easy run out with Dan including fartleks between lamposts – 3.44m
Tuesday –
Rest day
Wednesday – Easy run out with Hayley – 6.31m
Thursday – Group 4 club tempo run.  The aim was for 1m at tempo pace, then 1m steady – repeat x3.  In reality it was pretty icy on the paths towards the end though, so the pace slowed somewhat in the second half to ensure we all stayed on our feet, and not our faces.
Friday – Rest day, as traveling down to South Devon for the marathon
SaturdaySouth Devon marathon – 27.57m
Sunday – Rest day.  I had intended on running an easy couple of miles when we returned home but with a longer than planned trip back followed by a mad rush to Peterborough to sort out some hen do planning for one of my friends getting married over Easter, it had gone 10:30pm by the time I returned home and with a 5:15am start for work Monday morning, that run never happened.
So, with one run short for the week, a joker was played!

The drive home last Sunday was a bit of a drama.  In the morning, as we were packing away our things from the cottage to the car we all left a drawstring bag in the side of the room until someone asked “Whose is that?!”  We each thought it had belonged to someone else.  When the guys had finished the marathon the day before, one of the guys had been on the phone so the other had collected their bags from the drop-tent.  It was a genuine mistake, but we had come home with a bag that didn’t belong to any of us.  All we could do was pack it away in the car with our things in the hope that when we messaged the race organisers on returning to Northants someone would have let them know that their bag had gone missing.
The very long drive home begun.  We were looking at around 5.5hours to get back to Wellingborough so after a while we sat back, got comfortable and began to catch up on the weekend through Facebook.  As I did this, I noticed a plee on the Endurancelife Facebook page from the evening before…

We took his bag

 

We gave Gareth a call to let him know that we had picked his bag up by mistake and so that he was not worrying over where it was.  It turned out though that the bag had contained his car keys and his wallet.  He had been unable to drive home the night before, and with no money on him had had to travel by taxi for several hours back to London so that he could pick up his spare set of car keys before returning via train/taxi to the race start line in South Devon that morning.  He was still en route.  Even though it had been a genuine mistake, we felt awful.  We rerouted our journey to go via part of the way he would then return home after picking up his car and persuaded the manager at a service station Travelodge to look after his bag until he could arrive (he was still several hours behind us).  There wasn’t a lot more that we could do unfortunately.  A perfect example of why car keys and cash (along with phones) should always be carried on you during a run though.

Since the race I’ve also spotted a couple of videos that have appeared on the Endurancelife Facebook page.

You can really see at about 3:20 on that video just how tough some of the terrain was and how close we were to the edge of the cliff at points!  Now you know why my marathon time begins with a 6:xx:xx!

Link to a video on Dropbox

I’m not in either of the videos that I’ve noticed, but it was interesting to watch the course again through less-tired eyes!

Week 2:  The aim was for five runs and a long run of 14 miles.
Monday – Rest day following the marathon over the weekend.
Tuesday – Fartlek session with Group 6 at club.  I had intended on running in the group below mine for the speed session at club but when I couldn’t spot them on the night, ran with the group two below the one I normally run with.  It was nice to have a change and my legs appreciated not having to sprint full pelt across Wellingborough for the session.  3.32m
Wednesday – Trail run with friends from club.  The mud wasn’t too bad this week as we haven’t had a huge amount of rain just lately.  5.42m
Thursday – Easy run out with Dan.  3.08m
Friday – 10 mile mix of road and trail running with friends after work in the evening.  The group was quicker than I would normally run it but one of the other runners struggled with the distance towards the end so we pulled back the pace a little.  I felt very strong though.
Saturday – I had intended on going to Peterborough parkrun to help pace Dan round a sub 30m 5k but a pain in my hip meant we spent an extra 30m sleeping in instead.
Sunday – Good old Jantastic.  I’m sure I would have been too lazy to head out on a 14 mile run after returning from my parents’ at lunchtime otherwise, but I headed out and really enjoyed an easy zone 2 run.  The furthest I’ve been on the road for a very long time, so it gave me a lot of confidence in the lead up to the marathon.  I’m not worrying about speed at the moment, but instead concentrating on getting my running consistent over long distances (this doesn’t happen over trail!)  I am certain with all the speedwork and quicker running I have been doing just lately that I will be able to pick my speed up once I’m back consistently running 20m+ on the roads again.  I picked up the last couple of miles on the way back during this run as I still felt strong.  It’s always better to finish with quicker miles than to start with them.

We were back in Norfolk yesterday for the football (My Mum is a big Norwich fan, and they were playing Wolves, who Dan is long time fan of) and I spotted snowdrops out everywhere in my Mum’s garden.  Spring really is on the way now!

SnowdropsIt is half term this week and I have been looking forward to having a week off to catch up since starting my new job full time in January.  It has been a lot to keep up with and the house admin and blog amongst other things have fallen to the side a little.  Today I have written out a busy, but hopefully satisfying to-do-list which, although it includes things like changing my name on the house deeds, viewing two properties, marking all year eight homework and paying the house insurance, it also includes things like getting my hair cut and catching up on a few blogs!

What do you get caught up with during a week off work?

A South Devon EnduranceLife adventure

…and a proper adventure it was too!

This past weekend was spent running along the cliff tops in beautiful sunshine to tick off marathon number seven on my list.

South Devon marathon elevation

At the start of the week when my car was covered in snow and there was nothing but ice on the roads I was a little nervous about whether or not the South Devon EnduranceLife CTS (Coastal Trail Series) would go ahead or if the four of us would just be sat in a car for a long drive down to the coast for a jolly weekend away.

Although a selection of forecasts showed heavy wind and rain forecast throughout the day we actually really lucked out with some beautiful weather when it came to it. I was holding my breath as Steve, one of the guys from my running club that I traveled down with told us of last years event, when runners were getting hit by waves on the top of cliffs during the race!

When the four of us rocked up at the start line a little before 8am it was terrifically cold. We parked the car up on the seafront and headed off to the registration desk to collect our numbers. Just like at Gower, this was an incredibly organised process where we snaked along the outside of the tent, found our numbers, had them drawn onto our hands, collected our paper number and timing dibber, picking up a free gel and t-shirt along the way.  We felt a little cheated to get the same purple t-shirt (or green for the boys) that we had received at Gower, especially when we saw that the medal would also be exactly the same, with just the location printed on the front to tell the two apart.

I was worried about how cold I would get, having dressed only in my thin adidas long-sleeved top with my club vest over the top and a thin jacket for if it rained. I heat up very quickly when I’m running and feel uncomfortable wearing several layers so this had felt like enough to me when I’d gotten dressed in the morning.  Glancing around at everyone else stood in the tent with us I saw nothing but multiple layers on other runners so decided to wear the purple t-shirt given to us by EnduranceLife underneath my club vest for the race as an attempt to add a little extra warmth to my outfit.

We walked back to the car to remove final layers, change into our trainers and head to the beach loos one more time. (I would never have thought that public beach loos would be more appealing than loos at a running event. Let me tell you, they were much nicer than the runners portaloos!)

Time for a quick selfie on the start line.

Tom, Me and Gary at the EnduranceLife South Devon start line

The three of us who were running the marathon had chatted the whole journey down after work on the night before but despite this we suddenly realised we hadn’t discussed tactics or how we were running the race/who with/etc. I quickly piped up that I would be fine on my own. (Tom and Gary are both much faster than I am) and then the countdown to the race began. Within minutes they were ahead of me and I was stuck behind a woman with walking poles poking out of her bag at odd angles behind her. Every step she took jolted them a little and I had visions of them impaling me if I slipped down the bank. I overtook her at the first available opportunity!

We headed out up a slight incline on a grassy field. About a mile and a half in we took a Tarmac track heading up towards a lighthouse and here it was so windy that I had to grip my hat tightly with one hand, my water bottle with the other and try to peel myself off the edge of the cliff face without letting go of either as the immense pressure of the wind had made me fly there. My cap came off a total of four times on the course.  Twice completely and twice where it got caught in my ponytail and I managed to rescue it before it hit the floor.

Running at South Devon EnduranceLife CTS marathon

As we headed to the summit of the tarmac the path just dropped away from in front of us and I lost all sight of the runners in front of me. We were picking our way down a steep hill on the side of the cliff face. The next few miles were the toughest. I didn’t find the course as challenging as Gower had been – the elevation was much less hilly but the ground was much more technical. There were slippy rocks at uneven intervals and in places without any grass verge alongside them.

I regrouped with the boys at the first aid station and they commented on how strong I’d been running. I did feel like I had been running strongly, although was a little concerned that they had been holding back their pace in order to keep me in sight so I told them to make sure to go off when they wanted. They were probably in my eyeline for the first eight miles or so of the course. We stopped for a quick selfie before he boys pulled away again.

Tom, Me and Gary at the EnduranceLife South Devon marathon

And then they held back slightly so that we could all get a race photo together…

All three of us at EnduranceLife South Devon marathon

…shame we didn’t really get a good one of all three of us…just what is going on with my arm?!

After that I didn’t see the boys again until the finish.

Running at South Devon EnduranceLife CTS marathon

We crossed paths with the ultra runners whilst trying to pick our way along the rocks at the edge of the cliff. I really didn’t enjoy this or feel at all comfortable. I found it hard enough trying to ask people if I could overtake them during the race without having to squeeze myself through tiny gaps in the path or leap onto the very narrow verge so that the ultra runners could run past in the opposite direction. I was also amazed at how few of the front runners thanked me for moving over. Luckily the later runners redeemed my faith in the ultra runner species.

Running at South Devon EnduranceLife CTS marathon

There was never a point for longer than maybe three minutes where I could not see another runner.  I overtook a large number of people, particularly in the second half of the race and felt incredibly strong doing so. I hate that awkwardness of not being sure if it’s acceptable to continue talking to a runner and knowing when you can push on without being considered rude. I hope I got the balance right and didn’t offend anybody!

I snacked from very early on in the race on a variety; sour cream and chive pretzels, bourbon biscuits, ready salted crisps, cocoa orange Nakd bars and a few custard creams from the checkpoints. I’ve come a long way from the days of fuelling purely on jelly babies! My hydration strategy was to drink little and often, topping my water bottle up at each checkpoint, adding a lemonade nuun tablet with every other top up.  My teeth kind of ached after the first 16-17 miles and I think it was because I was eating so much ‘rubbish’ food that I wouldn’t normally have eaten had I not been running.  I figured it was probably better to have achy teeth than to run out of energy and feel weak and dizzy though.  There wasn’t a lot I could do about it whilst out on the course.

It was quite a relief to break away from the cliff edge and run across some fields for a little while.

Running at South Devon EnduranceLife CTS marathon

The second half of the race included lots of steep downhills on road stretches and I put in a few short sharp bursts of speed getting my pace down to 8:xx as I let my legs run away with me here.

During one of the sharp downhills I heard an odd sound in the distance. It reminded me a little of the battle horn in the Chronicles of Narnia. I hadn’t got a clue what it was! A minute later I heard it again, and then lots and lots of clattering heading in my direction. Into view came dozens and dozens of hounds and horses. It was a hunt. Coming from a home in the country I’ve seen plenty of hunts at their meeting points before but I’ve never seen a hunt out and about in the middle of action so I stood to the side to let them pass whilst taking a few photos.A hunt - hounds and horses

A hunt - hounds and horses

Not long after this the route took us back off the road and through some boggy woodland. Once out the other side we dipped down along the road to the final checkpoint. Here I checked how far we had remaining (3miles) and asked how many runners were still behind me (they were unsure) as I was a little concerned that I was still feeling too good and maybe I’d run the wrong route or been much slower than I had thought. I knew the next bit was a fairly flat section and was run on land that stretched out between two large stretches of water. Flat and straight is where I really struggle on a course – my head completely goes on sections like this so I made it my mission not to stop along here and to make up some time instead. My legs still felt strong, I had a lot of energy and I knew I would beat my Gower time at this point (Although it’s not really comparable as they were totally different courses).

At the end of the flat stretch runners crossed the road and arrived in a car park. I heard Steve shouting my name from the far end so headed in that general direction! Having run the half marathon he had already been back and waiting for us for a little while.  I got a little confused as we passed the start line and carried on going. When i chatted to Steve briefly on the way past I had lost sight of the runner in front of me but people were stood outside the local pub cheering me on so I must still be going the right way…right?!

And then I doubted myself again.  The course took us right through the town street and up a sharp incline onto more trail.  Who puts a sharp incline so close to the finish?!  That is really cruel!  Many, many steps back down later (again very cruel – I’m glad I’d kept moving and eating along the way otherwise I am sure to have had some bad cramps coming back down here!) and I could see the EnduranceLife flag at the bottom of the next field.  Luckily, the grass here was fairly flat and I could pick up some speed heading through to the finish…before wasting all of that gained time by not being able to pull my timing chip out from under my sleeve very quickly at all.

My medal was placed around my neck and a bar was pressed into my hand alongside a printout of my timings for the day.

EnduranceLife South Devon marathon timings(Current leader 3:46:54?!?!?!  How crazy quick was that?!)  The boys were there at the finish line, having finished just 20 minutes before me.  We had a quick Vivofit comparison and somehow Gary had run more steps than me by the end.

Gary and Me Vivofit steps EnduranceLife South Devon marathon(I have a really long stride!)  It didn’t matter though.  Marathon #7…DONE!  And still feeling super strong at the finish.  Chili and pringles were enjoyed for tea and we slobbed out to a cheesey 80s film with some cans of beer.  Perfect weekend!

Vital stats:

South Devon summary

Official time:  6:48:39
Position: 
111/115 – there were a further 10 runners who did not finish the race.
Gender position:
  28/29

A Janathon and Jantastic review

I’ll start with Janathon

I think I was a bit optimistic when it came to taking part in Janathon this year.  Yes, I did manage to exercise every day and I did mention it on the blog/some form of social media every day, but the aim in my head was to blog about it every day…it just didn’t happen.  Without making excuses (although I kind of am) it probably wasn’t the best plan to try and commit to blogging every day at the same time as starting full time in a new teaching position.  18/31 days of blogging isn’t too shabby though, all things considered, (doesn’t come close to my 30/31 days for Janathon last year) especially as I only blogged once last week (whoops!)

As well as starting a new job a few months after getting married, we also decided to put our house back on the market again this week, so are preparing ourselves for some serious upheaval, some of which has already begun.  I love our house and it was everything we needed when we moved in; two bedrooms and a huge garden in a quiet area of a small town.  We’ve outgrown it now and are looking for something a little bigger that we will be able to call home for a little longer.  We’ve been to see a few properties over the past fortnight and have found a couple that take our fancy, but it will all come down to how quickly we can get the price we are after for our current house.  Moving house is such a faff!

Onto Jantastic

Jantastic week 4I must say that Jantastic has kept me motivated when it has come to getting enough runs in each week.  My target is five runs each week, a number that has always worked well for me during training.  A few times I’ve not felt like heading out for a run but when I’ve thought about where I’m going to get that fifth run in later in the week it has changed my mind and I’ve headed out anyway.  Like that gif that has been around forever says…’“I really regret getting off the couch and going for a run” said no runner ever.’  I will struggle to fit my five in this week though as I took an unplanned rest day yesterday due to the icy roads round our way.

Runs for Jantastic Week 4:
MON – 3.5 miles easy run out with Dan.  The run back included fartleking between lampposts over half a mile.
TUES –
5.8 easy miles with a friend around town.
WED –
6.5 mile trail run on a very hilly and muddy route.
THURS –
Rest day
FRI –
10.1 easy trail run with a friend.
SAT –
parkrun with a non-running friend.
SUN –
6.5 miles of exploring new trails.

Total: 35 miles

There wasn’t enough work at pace last week and too many of the runs were ‘easy’, although this has strengthened my body and been great for base-building.  I had initially planned to run at a 15k off-road race on the Sunday, although we didn’t make it back from Wolverhampton in time that morning.  :(  I took just the one rest day last week, but my legs and body still felt strong throughout.  My mileage still needs to come back up to the 50-60 miles per week I feel comfortable attempting ultras on but it is gradually getting there – I don’t want to overdo it by bringing it right back up too soon and getting injured.  I feel like I’m in a good place right now.  Hopefully at least – it is the South Devon marathon on Saturday!

I’m supposed to be packing for the marathon at the moment but it was cold when I returned home from a run around town so I retreated to the warmth of the duvet in the bedroom to snatch some blog reading time instead.  I had a good run this evening – it felt good to be out after getting cooped up due to the ice last night.

Snow on carThere were quite a few hills on the route I ran with a friend but I kept my heartrate pretty low, still getting round much faster than the first time I tried a 10k to heartrate.  I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again…training to heart rate is really making a difference to my running this year.  :)

What is the longest blogging streak you have ever achieved?
How is your Spring marathon training going?

Some nakd goodness

A few weeks ago I received an email asking if I would like to try some of the Natural Balance Food range if I was sent a sample. Natural Balance Food = nakd bars, my bar of choice when it comes to eating on the run…literally! I don’t think I’ve ever responded to an email as quickly as I did that one!

I can’t remember how I originally discovered the nakd fruit and nut bars. Most likely via a blog. All I know is I loved the taste and even more importantly, my body coped with eating them whilst out on a run. Chocolate milk, oranges, pretzels and the cocoa orange nakd bars were the lifesaving items that saw me complete the Grim Reaper 70 last year after suffering through several long distance races where I had been unable to get enough fuel on board.

Kit for Dusk 'til Dawn 50mile ultramarathon

I’ve always been a fan of orange chocolate so cocoa orange was the obvious choice when it came to trying my first nakd bar. I was not disappointed and even after having tried them all now, it still remains a firm favourite.

I was very excited to see that I had been sent a whole box full of goodies through from nakd two days after I responded to the initial email. At first, I thought I had been sent a big box of just the cocoa orange flavour. Although I loved the flavour, I had been looking forward to testing out some of the less common flavours that I hadn’t been able to spot in my local Tesco.

Nakd boxWhen I opened the box I was not disappointed though. I had a full selection of flavours inside!

Nakd bars in a box

A double check on the front of the box and I spotted a cute sticker announcing ‘We love to help the environment so we reuse our case boxes to make mixed cases :)’

First on my to-nibble list was the elusive Bakewell Tart flavour. I’d looked enviously on as other bloggers raved about this bar but there was nothing I could do,-not even Holland & Barrett seemed to sell it! The bars are available online by the box but I wanted to have a taste before I committed to a box of 18 bars.  The wait was very much worth it. I savoured that bar for the best part of an hour…mouthful by mouthful. Dates, cashews and raisins have never tasted so good!

Bakewell Tart nakd bar wrapper

…Whoops!

One of my favourite things about the nakd bars is the limited ingredients list. The majority of their bars consist of different percentages of dates, cashews and raisins all ‘smooshed together’ with a hint of natural flavouring. The bars contain no added syrup or sugars, count as one of your five a day and are all gluten free, wheat free, dairy free and 100% vegan. You can’t go wrong, whichever one is your favourite!

When I was younger, my Dad used to treat my brother and I to mint chocolate bars at weekends and ever since then I’ve found the flavour mint to be very familiar and comforting. Cocoa Mint was the next obvious choice in my favourites list. The mint flavour is quite strong but to me this is ideal and a much healthier version of the treat that I enjoyed as a child.

Although not a coffee drinker, I do enjoy coffee flavoured foods and this included the Caffe Mocha bar, made from dates, cashew nuts, raisins and cocoa.  I enjoyed my little coffee fix as a non-coffee drinker whilst sat at my teaching desk surrounded by others in the profession probably most known for getting through cups of coffee in the morning!

Next up was the Cocoa Delight and it was everything you would expect from a bar called cocoa delight!  I felt like this one almost tasted like I was eating a chocolate muffin but with none of the heavy feeling left on my tummy for hours to come.

Cocoa Delight nakd bar

Berry Delight was a little sweeter than I thought it would be, with a slight tart taste coming from the 3% of raspberries included in the ingredients list.  It was one I would definitely pick up on a future shop though, as well as Rhubarb & Custard – probably a little less sweet than the Berry Delight.  I was curious as to how they achieved the ‘custard’ flavour because it really did taste like rhubarb and custard!

Rhubarb & custard nakd bar

Pecan Pie contained almonds – one of my favourite flavours in a bar (marzipan addict right here) and this bar disappeared pretty quickly.  I was a little disappointed to see there was only one of these for me to try!

Pecan Pie nakd bar

Cashew Cookie wasn’t high on my list of favourite flavours. A little too nutty for my liking. This bar had the best ingredients list though… Just two ingredients!  I just love how you know exactly what you’re putting inside your body with these bars.

nakd bar Cashew Cookie ingredients list

Ginger Bread was my least favourite of the selection I was sent but I had a feeling it might be. I’m not a big fan of lots of spices included in a mix when baking. I do enjoy gingerbread men from time to time but the bar just didn’t do it for me. There were two bars included in my box so I shall pack the remaining one up and next time I visit my parents take it along to see if either of them are fans.

Ginger bread nakd bar

I’ve had a great few weeks discovering some new flavours of nakd bar for when I want a change from my regular cocoa orange.  Glancing over the ingredients list for each of the bars has made me much more aware about just how many ingredients are in other cereal/snack bars.  I noticed almost twenty ingredients in a cereal bar whilst out shopping the other morning, many of which I wasn’t sure of what they were!

Favourite nakd bar flavour?
What do you look for in a snack bar?